A few nights ago, I dreamt about a row of old shops which had been boarded up with huge sheets of brown cardboard. Along the top, there was a big bright Tesco banner.
In my dream, I realised that when my dreams are set in man-made environments, they are always up-to-date. I very rarely dream about my own personal past, let alone further back in history.
I reflected that I’m a person who isn’t drawn to the past – I don’t write on historical themes, and I’m not fired by antiques, or costume dramas, or classical novels or paintings. Only last week, I bought a limited edition print of the Lidl in Brixton. It felt fresh and different – mean, how much Lidl-related art do you see?
Even when I did a few past-life regressions, they didn’t go further back than wartime Europe, but that’s another story.
I wondered about other people – antiques collectors, historical novelists, family archivists. People my spiritualist friend used to call ‘old souls.’ Did they have more dreams set in the past?
At the end of the dream, I dreamt I was recording this as a blog-post rather than an entry in my dream diary – and that’s what I’ve just done!
So this is my dream question – if you love old things, if you read or write historical books, do you have dreams that are set in the past? Or if, like me, you love the new, is that reflected in your dreams and writing too?
Years ago, I was on a Society of Authors retreat at Totleigh Barton, the Arvon centre in Devon. It wasn’t a taught course, but an opportunity to explore our writing ambitions as a group and with individual tutors.
The group was made up of successful authors from every area of writing – medical books, Black Lace, children’s fiction, ELT, poetry… Without exception – well, except me, because I wanted to have a go at poetry – they all harboured a secret ambition to write a literary novel. They said they wouldn’t feel like a proper writer unless they could achieve it.
I was struck by this hierarchical view of writing. It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a prominent commentator in the children’s book world at a conference, which went:
Him: So what are you working on at the moment?
Me: I’m mostly writing for educational publishers
He gives me a disparaging look. I give him an enquiring frown.
Him: Well, it’s second grade, isn’t it? Educational books are never so good.
I was cross and astonished. I’d written for both trade and education, and had always given both my absolute best. I was the same writer, whatever I was writing.
Until that moment, it had not occurred to me that mainstream authors might look down their noses at educational writers; they were just different kinds of writing, and demanded different skills.
I had taken, and still take, a holistic view of writing, rather than a hierarchical one. I write all kinds of things for publication and for my own entertainment, including childrens’s and adults’ fiction and non-fiction, educational books, self-help, poetry, magazine articles and blog posts, and every single line I write feels fruitful and worthwhile, whether it finds a publisher or not, because it is helping to develop the writer that I am.
The holistic approach makes for a joyful writing life. You aren’t trying to hit goals set by the market, or other people’s judgements. You’re open to experiment because the goal is self-discovery, and every new discovery involves an element of adventure.
That’s how I view my writing life – I’m a proper writer simply by virtue of the fact that I write, as are all the people who gather round my table for writing workshops.
How about you? Are you a proper writer, and if not, what would make you feel as if you were?
Your blog is a great example of balancing both a personal focus and a focus on others with similar experiences. As a writer, I see a lot of value and insight on your blog that I can use on my own path, so I’m engaged right off the bat.
The personal stories add that unique perspective people look for, as mentioned above.
Keep up the great work!
Woo hoo! *happy dance*
‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ has a hundred fantastic followers, including some who bring in lots of casual visitors through tweeting about my posts and sharing on facebook (special big huge thank-you – you know who you are!)
But writing a blog is undeniably very time-consuming, and for an author that’s time doing your normal work, but without getting paid. So why would an author want to write a blog?
The short answer is, because it’s a whole new adventure in writing. It might take time away from your work-in-progress, but it doesn’t take away any writing-time.
The time I spend writing my blog makes the writer-in-me feel happy because
It have total creative freedom – there’s no pressure to try and make what I write here attractive to a mass market
I get instant feedback from readers – this has given me many insights, especially through people sharing their personal stories
It brings me the generous gift of guest posts from some fabulous interesting people
Its reach is global – I have readers from every continent, some of them reading my blog in translation
It engages me in the blogosphere as a reader – I’ve discovered some great new writers and had lots of interactions on other people’s blogs
It makes me engage more fully with networks such as twitter, linkedin and facebook – which I enjoy
I’m going to tweet and fb one of my fave posts each day this week, as part of my blog birthday celebrations.
So gather round, dear friends, grab a glass and help yourselves to a slice of virtual cake… and thank you for coming to the party 🙂
A friend of mine was really pleased with herself the last time I saw her because, after a lifetime of writing, she had finally stepped into that space and owned it. She had told an events organiser, ‘I’m a local poet.’
It reminded me of another friend who had written several novels which absolutely no-one else knew about. She had only told me because she wanted my advice about how to find a publisher.
Coming out as a writer doesn’t sound as if it should be hard, but I think for many writers it can be. We may have to do it bit-by-bit, our family and close friends first, before going public enough to maybe join a writing group or sign up for some courses. Having confessed we’ve been writing, there’s another coming-out to do if we decide to try and be published.
Since I had wanted to be an author from a very early age, my family always knew, and I actually foisted my teenage efforts on school friends for a penny a chapter. So the fact that I wrote was never something I felt shy about confessing, and when the time came for me to try and earn a living from it, I was happy for everyone to know.
I reckoned that otherwise they’d just have thought I was a slacker anyway, sitting around at home when all my children were in school or playschool. On the whole, it seemed better to risk looking like someone with unrealistic expectations, wasting a lot of time and effort which was doomed to failure, than someone who wasn’t making any effort at all.
It came as a complete shock to me, therefore, when my first books came out, to find that I suddenly felt exposed. It wasn’t only my family and friends who knew any more – now everyone would know, and what’s more, they could read what I’d written.
I couldn’t understand at all why I was having such a problem – I mean, wasn’t that the point of being an author, to have people read what you’d written? So when I found myself on a psychodrama day with a group of counsellors, I told them I was totally up for exploring the reasons why.
In psychodrama, I went straight into a cave with all my writing and flatly refused to come out!
It turned out that the essence of my anxiety was about having things out there that I’d written, which I might find embarrassing further down the line. This did happen, a decade later, when I was revising my adults’ book on bullying for a new edition. I had completely changed my mind on the subject of forgiveness, and I realised that there might be any number of earlier opinions in others of my books that I’d long ago left behind in my life.
I was reassured to read, in John Fowles’ preface to a new edition of his first book, ‘The Magus,’ how he had wrestled with just this difficulty. Much of what was in the book, he no longer felt or even liked very much. He said he considered doing a total rewrite, because he felt embarrassed about what he now could see were the book’s shortcomings.
But in the end, he decided to leave the text just as it was, saying
All artists have to range the full extent of their own lives freely. The rest of the world can censor or bury their private past. We cannot, and so have to remain partly green till the day we die… callow green in the hope of becoming fertile green.
A lot of the books I enjoy reading are essays, memoirs and opinion pieces, and I like writing that kind of book too. Perhaps that’s why this was my particular stumbling block, when it came to coming out as a writer.
An enemy of self-reliance is consistency – we feel we can’t contradict our former ideas and utterances – but that’s just conforming to other people’s idea of who we are based on historical evidence. We think we may be misunderstood – but so what? We need to live and grow in the present, not be tied down by the past. Ralph Waldo Emerson
The book I’ve just written about dreams is full of my own ideas, experiences and opinions, and now I’m writing this blog… I guess you could say that I’m over it now!
If you’re a writer, did you find it hard to tell people about your writing, or writing ambitions? Did you have a particular block when it came to going public?
Someone asked me last week, ‘What makes you want to follow a blog?’ Before I started this one, nearly six months ago, I read a lot of blogs about blogging, and everyone agreed that your goal should be to get people to sign up rather than call in from time to time.
Now that I’m blogging myself, I can feel the difference this makes, because the signed-up members feel like a community, and the result feels more like a conversation.
Most pundits seem to agree that the way to get people to sign up is to offer an incentive, usually in the form of a free download. Following that advice, I offered my printout about dream recalling and recording, which I had been intending to put up on my Tips page.
But when this friend asked me last week why I personally subscribe to the blogs I like, I realised that for me it’s all about content. I subscribe if I like the content enough not to want to miss a post. In fact, free downloads are a disincentive to me, after my experience of them so far.
I’ve only signed up to three blogs because I was curious about the free download, and each time, it’s lead to a slew of nuisance emails about topics I never asked for information about. In two of these cases, they also quickly went on to try to sell me downloads or get me to sign up to courses.
So as of today, my sign-up offer ceases. You can see my recalling-and-recording dreams info on the Tips page, and here’s a heads-up on some great content coming in the next few weeks.
How to use dream material to energise your writing… guest post from one of my fave bloggers, Katherine Roberts… interview with lovely dreamworker, Toko-pa Turner… the Death card and the end of the dream book…
If you haven’t done so yet – I do hope you’ll sign up!
I’ll be changing my ways from now on, based on five of Anne’s top blogging tips that I missed.
I’ll be posting more regularly. I’m going for once-a-week, on Wednesdays. I find it hard to keep up with blogs that have new posts every other day, but I go cold on the ones that seem to have gone cold on me. Once a week suits me as a follower, so I hope it will please my blog-followers too. This is my first Wednesday post!
I’ll be doing more linking (you’ll notice I started this post as I mean to go on!) What’s social networking, without sharing the good stuff? I’ll also put my link in Anne’s comments, and make more comments on the other blogs I read, so that their followers might click through to the House of Dreams.
My blog titles might involve numbers (yep – starting as I mean to go on again) There might also be a sprinkling of bullet points within my posts, if I remember to put them in.
I might make my posts a bit longer. They’ve been coming in around the 300 word mark, which is well under half the average for blog posts. But then again, I might not. I like to write lean – possibly in part because I’m not a patient reader myself.
While taking on board all the great advice out there, I’ll go on ploughing my own path. Blogging is creative writing, and half the fun is finding out what it’s got in mind, and watching how it evolves. (Yes, I am one of those authors who DETEST writing synopses)
Doh – that’s all I’ve got to say and guess what? It’s 300 words. I rest my case!
Now, because finishing with a question is another tip I kind of missed, or rather got in a quite haphazard way, I’m going to close with a question for you, O welcome visitor to the House of Dreams – What are your top tips for successful blogging?
Hooray, hooray – I’ve just been awarded my first blog award! I was awarded this by children’s author Abi Burlingham (check out her guest post, about the dream that sparked ‘Buttercup Magic’) She’s got a lovely bright, colourful blog, with new posts every Friday http://www.abiburlingham.talktalk.net/Blog.html Thank you so much, Abi, I’m honoured.
Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. These are the things you should do if you receive the award: Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you. 2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog. 3. Copy and paste the award on your blog. 4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers . There are some lovely blogs out there, and some wonderful, funny and talented bloggers. So, without further ado…
I’d like to award the Liebster Blog Award to the following bloggers.
Siany Morgan, web angel extraordinaire, who helps women feel more confident and comfortable establishing a web presence http://websforwomen.com/
Well, who would have thought it? I’m loving writing my little bloggie! That’s what my friend Sian calls it, she of http://www.spiritoftheblog.co.uk/. We’ve never met, but she got in touch with me last year about my books on bullying through my website, and we reconnected last week through this blog.
To be honest, I only came to blogging because I wanted to put the word out about my dream book, and I imagined that it was going to feel like any other writing task. But it’s turned out to be completely different, and the reason why, is you.
Already, in a few weeks, I’ve had a number of email conversations with people in Britain, Canada and the US, and I’ve loved hearing your dreams and comments.
It reminds me of when I started to teach workshops, which I did out of financial necessity after my marriage broke up. The last thing I expected was that I might actually enjoy it.
But, almost immediately, I discovered that nothing is more wonderful than sitting among a group of people who are totally absorbed in their writing, and then hearing them read what they’ve written. I think one of the reasons people come to writing workshops is because it answers an ancient need in all of us to come together and tell our stories.
So hello Sian, and hello everyone else who is reading this! Is there anything you would like me to add to my topic list?